Daniel Miller Professor Garcia ISS 335 17 March 2008 In today?s society people are subjected to stereotypes about race every day from a variety of angles, and one of the most unique relationships to look at is that of the Anglo versus the Latino or Chicano. One major problem that starts racial stereotypes is that Mexican Americans are often viewed to belong to one of three categories, ?the greaser; the conniving, the treacherous bandido;? and the tragic, silent, tall, dark and handsome ?Spanish? type of romantic fiction? (Delgado and Stefancic 210). In the begging of the film era, Hollywood has portrayed Latinos were portrayed as the greaser and bandido, and seldom as a character the audience can look up to. The media has perpetuated Latinos in a variety of ways, focusing heavily on the negative but incorporating positive images due to the changing views on race in the United States. Latinos were cast into popular culture with the invention of the silent film, and suddenly could be seen as stars throughout the United States; however, these of Latino stars that were chosen for leading roles always played an American or European character. In the silent film era they could play these lead roles because they could appear white, and most importantly their voices couldn?t be heard. Since actors had no lines, their accents and heritage were not recognizable, but with the invention of sound and film there was an immediate dismissal of Latino leading actors. It was too hard for the public to accept these characters, thus throwing previously leading actors into supporting roles. Although there were Latinos playing positive roles in Hollywood during the silent film area, a much harsher image of the greaser was often portrayed. As discussed in class, up to eighteen movies can be found with the term greaser in the title, a then common and acceptable euphemism for Mexican-Americans. In these films Mexicans were portrayed as the fighter that ?did not know his place?treacherous and evil with sexual overtones? (Delgado and Stefancic 210). In films they were often depicted abducting white women, and killing all others who tried to get in their way. Interviews in the documentary The Bronze Screen: 100 Years of the Latino Image in American Cinema stated that these negative images lead Latinos to be the first bad guys of Hollywood since movies are subconscious images that the world will have. This was the start in Hollywood of a negative image of Mexicans that would transition throughout the century to lead to many other stereotypes, some still present today. Another powerful negative image of Latinos is that of the Bandido displayed in many westerns, and is one that can still be found today. The Bandido was an evolution of the greaser image and holds many of the same negative traits. This Bandido in numerous westerns was often portrayed as a ?slow, dumb, lazy, and cowardly? character that was always outsmarted and outmatched by the much more desirable, respectable, Anglo cowboy (Maciel 224). Since these stereotypes were seen in so many popular films, the negative images would often outweigh the nearly non-existent positive images of the time. Perhaps what was even worse than portraying Mexican-Americans in all such a negative manner was the fact that with the invention of sound, Anglos began playing the parts cast for Latinos. This was done so that the actors would not have accents, and could then be accepted by the popular culture. Instead, the Anglo actors would often use a mocking accent that was meant to sound humorous and portray Latinos as dumb witted and foreign. One such movie was Touch of Evil which portrayed one of the main characters, a Mexican, played by a white actor by the name of Charles Heston. In the movie the Latino characters were always cast in the shadows, giving them a lurking sense of danger. When these shadowy characters began to talk to a white woman, she immediately assumed that they were hitting on her, and potentially trying to rape her. This is just one more example of the negative image of Latinos to give them a bad reputation amongst the American public. One positive image that has come out of Latinos in movies is that of the Latin lover, the romantic that sweeps women off their feet and takes them to a paradise that no Anglo could provide. A major reason this character was created was that of WWII in Europe that cut off the export in films. Hollywood now had to sell their movies towards other outlets, so they began to look at South and Central America; however, to successfully sell films they must first produce a marketable image of the Latinos, thus the lustful Latino lover was born. Unfortunately, the movie industry was still unable to accept Latino accents, so directors still cast Anglos in brown face to play the leading roles. It took society so long to accept the equality of other races in media that the first interracial kiss on television didn?t occur until 1969, a time well past when Hollywood started gearing an industry towards the Latino culture. Today, the greaser and bandido images of Latinos have evolved into the present gangster and drug-dealer images. Mexicans, especially in movies and television are often portrayed as being dangerous thugs, often participating in illegal gang activities. On the other hand, The Latin lover image does still exist today with such stars as Selma Hayek and Antonio Banderas that use their sexuality to capture a viewer?s attention into a world of exotic lust. The images of Latinos today are now shown in both a positive and negative light which roots can be traced through the early 20th century. It is my hope that over time Latinos won?t be type cast into negative roles. The greaser, turned bandido, turned gangster, turned drug lord image needs to dissolve into a thing of the past as Latinos continue to hold a positive image in society which should be reflected in film.
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